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Colombian Culture: Literature

Though for many the notion of Colombian literature immediately brings to mind Gabriel García Márquez and the style of Magic Realism, the literary movements and authors this country has seen are as diverse as the culture itself. The common denominator of Latin American literature can be clearly defined in Colombian authors from the colonial era, passing through the Independence authors, and the styles like Costumbrismo, Los Nuevos, Nadaísmo and the Boom Generation.

Colonial literature in Colombia was heavily influenced by religion, since only religious men were educated in the art of writing and it would have been difficult to publish stories of heroes who weren’t saints because the church controlled printers. By the time the people of Nueva Granada began fighting for independence, the political discourse became the spark that ignited the fire of patriotic poetry and a general search for a national identity in narration. Antonio Nariño, a republican journalist known as the father of political journalism in Colombia, was a key figure in the literature that lead up to independence. Inmid-1810, Nariño founded the political newspaper La Bagadela, an outlet for his centrist discourse which served him to later get elected president of Cundinamarca.

The second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the style known as Costumbrismo emerged and became the first defined mark of what we know today as Colombian literature. Costumbrismo concentrated on narrating real characters in society as a way of defining the culture and its people. The critical style acquired during the Independence era continued in Costumbrismo; in fact, it has continued to question quotidian rules and government throughout published pages of every literary era. The poet Gregorio Gutiérrez Gonzáles (known as the man of the three Gs) is a particularly good example of Costumbrismo. His descriptions of romantic style gave details of everyday family life, and exposed the melancholy and love of common places.

León de Greiff, Luis Vidales and Tomás Carrasquilla, some of the best writers in the 1920s, belonged to the literary movement referred to as Los Nuevos (The New Ones). This style consisted of a hidden romanticism and a negation of the past. The ugly was emphasized. Narrations were often dark and mysterious. De Greiff was the best-known bohemian in Los Nuevos movement. His work was heavily criticized because of his constant experimentation with form, style and vocabulary. He was awarded the National Prize for Poetry in 1970.

The movement funded by journalist Gonzálo Arango came to be the trend of the 50s. Nadaísmo adhered itself to existentialist and nihilist principles. The movement began before Arango, with Fernando Gonzáles Ochoa who produced the first writings that would later be cataloged as Nadaísta. Arango was a disciple of Ochoa.

Considered one of the greatest Colombian thinkers of all times, Ochoa spent his life developing original philosophies and artistic works. Though he was nominated for a Nobel Prize of Literature in 1995, he did not win the recognition. In 2006, however, Colombian president Álvaro Uribe approved a law in which the nation would remember the life and works of Ochoa and declared his house near Medellín, la Casa Museo Otraparte, a cultural landmark.

With the Boom Generation came the acclaimed Gabriel García Márquez, who moved Colombian and Latin American literature into the realm of magical realism. In this genre, magical elements or illogical scenarios appear in an otherwise realistic setting. Márquez went on to achieve world admiration, receiving the 1982 Nobel Prize of Literature for his novel “Cien Años de Soledad.”This movement advanced Colombian literature to the top of the list. However, it was followed by a generation of pessimistic authors for some years before contemporary authors took back the characteristic everyday descriptions and magical realism of today’s publications.

Other important late-20th century writers are Laura Restrepo, who has won several literary prizes, and Manuel Zapata Olivella, who is recognized as one of the hemisphere’s most important Afro-Latino fiction writers and folklorists.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Colombia: Colombian Culture: Art, Cumbia, Colombian Culture: Cinema, Colombian Culture: Music, Colombian Culture: Theater, Shakira, Colombian Culture: Comedy, Colombian Culture: An Introduction, Colombian Culture: Museums and Colombian Culture: Dance.

27 Sep 2011

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